Sharrer worked downtown, near Manhattan’s Union Square, but shared with her Harlem peers a desire to celebrate “ordinary people.” “It is these distinguished-undistinguished players,” she said, “that moved and interested me.” Sharrer depicts American families presenting and reacting to well-known paintings, including Grant Wood’s iconic American Gothic (1930) and Pablo Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror (1932). In different ways, most of the artists she chose to represent here—including the French realist Jean-François Millet and the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera—were known for their sympathetic portrayals of working people.
Gallery label from "Collection 1940s—1970s", 2019
A salute to American workers, this painting shows ordinary families presenting and reacting to well-known paintings including Grant Wood’s iconic American Gothic (1930) and Pablo Picasso's Girl Before the Mirror (1932). In different ways, most of the artists Sharrer chose here, including the French realist Jean-François Millet and the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, attempted to honor the dignity of working people.
Sharrer made Workers and Paintings for a mural competition sponsored by the Springfield Art Museum, in Massachusetts. The work won an honorable mention and was included in MoMA's landmark 1946 exhibition Fourteen Americans. The ten studies were based on photographs that Sharrer adapted for the painting, a method typical of her process. Many decades later, the poet John Ashbery praised her paintings, describing their meticulous style as "a collaboration between Norman Rockwell and the brothers van Eyck."
Gallery label from 2010.